Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Crass "Stations Of The Crass" (1979)

After being brought back to a classic record, "The Feeding Of The 5000", I thought id follow up with their second full length album released the following year. Id only heard it a handful of times before and listening to the album again it pretty much takes off where the last one left. However the albums mood is slightly more depressive, pessimistic and angry. As if the monochromatic abrashion wasn't gritty enough the tone now has a little less statement and more response to the events that unraveled between the two records. Calling out The Clash again and making defeatist statements like "Were not going to change the system". Its not just in the lyrics, its in the delivery too, their is more anger, bite and despair in the voices of Crass's various singers.

But for the most part its very similar. Instrumentally its constructed from the same ideas, lots of snare lead militant percussion, dissonant noisy distortion guitars and a bouncy baseline always in the thick of it. The vocals are again apologetically blunt and stubborn, marked by the thick Essex accent. Eve Libertine makes a return on a couple of tracks, singing on "Upright Citizen" which gives it a wave of color in a sea of grey. Aesthetically its mostly the same too, sounding as if they could of come from the same recording session, maybe with a touch more clarity.

The record plays through with less striking statements and little hooks where its predecessor had many. The last three tracks unwind slowly with moments of anger fulled Punk between more atmospheric noise led movements. Its a decent record but doesn't have quite the same orchestration is the bands first, however with it being so similar its quite possibly an example with what retreading your footprints can mean musically, less memorable and not as impacting. Still a great listen though, again with a large track listing of many short songs.

Favorite Tracks: Darling, System, Upright Citizen, Demoncrats
Rating: 7/10

Monday, 29 August 2016

Cryptic Slaughter "Speak Your Peace" (1990)

Cryptic Slaughter are an American Crossover Thrash band from the 80s who had a very young line up, in terms of age, during in their short six year life span. They released four full length records, this being their last released in the same year that they split up. Their debut was released in 86 when some of the members were only 16 years old! Young bands are more common in today's freedom of access internet driven music scenes, back then it was rather a rarity. As a crossover band Cryptic Slaughter had more of a Thrash leaning on the guitars and drums, mixing up common techniques with Hardcore sounds too, the music themes and open mindedness of the record leans more so in the other direction. As a fan of both Hardcore Punk and Thrash Metal I was keen to give this one a listen, as I have heard the bands name mentioned by many reputable artists.

"Speak Their Peace" made its mark on me through its political, social and philosophical statements. There's a lot of observation and reflection apparent in the lyrics which make thoughtful points about the environment, society, ethics and a cynical criticism of the often overlooked issues in society. On the title track the line "I'm sick of hearing there is nothing we can do, I'm sick of hearing that nothing ever changes, well change changes, what we do gets done" really truck me. Brilliant denial of pessimistic attitudes. Its a rebellious soundtrack of alternative ideas that are rooted in logic and reason with a warm dose of compassion.

The instrumentals accompanying the angry shouting voice of injustice are also rather dense with substance and ideas. The tone is heavy in mood rather than texture with many riffs walking from one to the next, interlacing discords between moments of heaviness. The baselines don't shy away from the stage playing a big warm role jumping out between the silence of the distortion guitar and climbing the fret-board for higher notes too. In general it plays rather organically with each moment unraveling into the next, never settling still and continually moving into the next orchestrated riff section, occasionally throwing in half measures and often varying on repetitions.

It adds up to thirty three minutes of energetic, to the point Crossover that makes its point firmly. Its got attitude and a guitar style that sets it apart from other bands. Although its Thrash can be thrashy, and its Hardcore commonplace too its the continual meshing of the two ideas that roots it in a unique place. The recordings production is solid for the time, nothing is especially clear or sublime but each instrument fits into the mix so well, its a very balanced construct that lets the music do all the talking.

Favorite Tracks: Insanity By The Numbers, Speak Your Peace, Killing Time
Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Snoop Dogg "Coolaid" (2016)

As he states it in the opening track, Snoop Dogg's a living legend and "Coolaid" is the fourteenth record from the American superstar who solidified his name in the history of music with his iconic debut "Doggystyle" back in 93. He has never manage to reach that peak again but has remained in the limelight ever since, appearing at all sorts of cultural events and consistently releasing records every couple of years. Personally I haven't been particularly impressed with his output since 93 but every record has a few decent songs and "Coolaid" is a slick, smooth record with easy going, polished beats and steady, lush instrumentals. Snoops flow is as smooth and stylish as ever, however a lack of lyrical substance weighs down the mood as Snoop flips the same themes over. At seventy seven minutes the slick hooks and catchy versus get lost between a lot of fluff and mediocrity from Snoop. He focuses much of his words on status, image and general braggadocios themes which get tiring. Snoop has often been about his unique style and persona on the mic but when the rhymes are half baked it can fall flat.

Snoop's production choices are a little varied across the record with modernized beats intermingling with G-Funk and synthesizer instruments. It flows well, hits a high point with the summery oldskool "Oh Na Na" and a low with "My Carz" where Snoop raps over Gary Numan's classic track "Cars". It lacks charm or chemistry, the two styles feel opposed to one another. Then "Two Or More" comes in, another highlight culminating with some breezy jives and Disco like funk. The synths on this track are gorgeous and chorus really sells the track. Its a moment where Snoop and the beats are their best and for the most part you don't quite get both together. That's just how it sounded to my ears, a well produced record that's easy to enjoy but it lacks the trim to put the best moments together in a shorter run time.

Favorite Tracks: Oh Na Na, Two Or More, Kush Ups
Rating: 4/10

Friday, 19 August 2016

Forest Silence "The Eternal Winter" (2002)

This short, twenty minute, three track demo is Hungarian Black Metal duo Forest Silence's third before landing a full length record in 2006. Its part of a patchy discography where the tone, aesthetics and style shifts from each release. The previous demo is a collection of dark, weary ambient soundscapes and their one album is very clean and riff driven. This demo however carves itself a niche of sleepy, hellish, atmospheric Black Metal that I could only compare to a few bands, I Shalt Become's "The Pendle Witch Trials" comes to mind, however this release has a lot more aggression, fire and menace about it than the witch trials.

The first two tracks follow a similar structure where the same riffs and patterns play over and over, back and forth while the noisier, less coherent instruments grow the atmosphere that surrounds them. Deep nefarious, windy synths lead the tone as they resonate from behind the other instruments that stand in front. They play singular notes at a distance from one another, letting the attack of the instrument slowly expand out. The drums are rather thin and pasty, lost in the mix however a deep thudding tribal drum makes a distinctive mark on the songs like the heart of darkness pounding away. The guitars alternate between strung out chords and snaky tremolo riffs, they too are thin and buried in the muddy mix. To much effect they compliment and add a density to the synths despite being smoothed by them at times.

Its a low fidelity affair where the messy mix lets the gloomy, unsettling synths create an engrossing atmosphere. The vocals initially feel laughable, cliched weak raspy screams groan out over the instrumental with echoing reverbs. Their balance however works amazing for the music, another snarling malicious voice to strengthen the harrowing atmosphere. The two songs are equally brilliant in their longer run times and to wrap it up a somber and lonesome ambient track leads the demo out.

Its an instrumental track with sweeping synths like winds, a soft murmuring bass and lonely melody calling out over the desolate, baron landscape. It evolves with some acoustic guitar accents and bongo drums playing a soft rhythm. It doesn't aim for a climax but fades away and serves as a calm and solemn unwinding. Another memorable song and merit for a fantastic demo from this obscure Hungarian duo.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Stelladrone "Light Years" (2013)

Ascending from the Baltics, Lithuanian musician Edgaras aka Stelladrone may have one of the best self describing names Ive come across. Stella for interstellar, space and all things beyond the cosmos. Drone for the nature of the music, lush ambient drones of textural synths that lure in the listener to deep cosmic wonder. All of Stelladrones music is available for free, an ethical approach I very much like and "Light Years" is the last release from the artist in three quiet years.

The tone of this record lands right within my expectations of the name. Its on the lighter side of ambience and Its astral drones create rich atmospheres fit for deep thought and reflection. It captures the mystery of our universe in wondrous frame of infinite beauty, we listen in awe of our experience of it. Across the 10 tracks different flavors of equally positive vibes emanate from lush, dimensional synths that sweep and a wash gently by as they move through lengthy phase shifts. They are often accompanied by a chirpy shuffling synth tune that loops itself through the infinite. Half the time some percussive elements join the fold, more often berried into the synths and a few tracks get dense in comparison to others with multiple synth tones stacking up alongside the drums.

Each track is its own but in the grander scheme the record doesn't surpass its own moment. There is nothing to fault but the soothing, slow and droning nature of the music has it molding your mood but not your memory. As enjoyable as each listen is, not to much about it sticks around. The drones are singular and uneventful, fantastic for focusing on another task. It succeeds as background music but in the foreground is simply pleasant but doesn't make itself remembered. Solid record with fantastic production, great sounding synths for calming compositions.

Favorite Tracks: Red Giant, Light Years
Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Killing Joke "Brighter Than A Thousand Suns" (1986)

Ive been chipping away at the Killing Joke discography for some time, their first two records "Killing Joke" and "Whats THIS for...!" were really something but the rest of what Ive heard hasn't been quite as unique or interesting. I last listened to "Outside The Gate", their most poorly received record but one I thought wasn't all to terrible, it had a couple of memorable, catchy songs on it. I actually skipped a beat there, missing this record which ironically feels more like a solo effort from front man Jaz Coleman who's face dominates the albums cover. The negativity surrounding the band at the time seems to revolve around the shifts in style but listening thirty years later its seemingly irrelevant.

Guitar distortions and aggression are almost non existent, the guitars, mostly overdriven, are jamming away in the distance, drifting through melancholy riffs in a wash of hazy reverb that vibes with the synths. Jaz's electronics are eerie keys with an astral quality about them, they take much of the melodic lead and usually the guitars are following them, adding texture and density to the simple synth lines. The drums are rather punchy and active with solid tones however in the mix the are rightly quiet and keep pace rather than make a big impact on the songs. The bass lines are a key component of groove, big and bold the rest in the forefront jamming to their own tune that ties the drums to the guitars and keys. Rising above it all is Jaz's voice who flexes the soft yet powerful side of his range. The instrumental sets the tone, building the atmosphere for Jaz to take the stage. With some soft reverb he shows his talent however as always the lyrics generally pass me by. Its an agreeable chemistry but as it stretches on through its hour run time a limitation arises without a flexibility to his approach on each song. The songs two are rather simple and their is no grandiose ideas at work, just variations on the same aesthetic.

Its still got that distinct Killing Joke vibe, but far more New Wave, and with a tinge of Gothic residing in its moody, slightly gloomy exterior. Two tracks in the middle stick out, breaking the established formula and stripping back the guitars for the synths to take lead. "A Southern Sky" has a memorable hook "Death on the hills, into the forest" and "Victory" has a much perkier, upbeat feel with a jovial base making itself known. They feel different and slightly more pop than the rest of the record, at one hour it probably could of dropped these songs off but that's just my opinion since they feel so out of place to me. Overall its a reasonable record, enjoyable in its moment but not much sticks in the mind about it. Its something for a particular mood, just a mood I'm rarely in.

Rating: 5/10

Monday, 15 August 2016

Vinterriket "Der Letzte Winter - Der Ewigkeit Entgegen" (2005)

Multi-instrumentalist Christoph Ziegler is the man behind the German Black Metal project known as Vinterriket, Swedish for "winter realm". Recommended to me by a friend it was something I already had in my collection from the days where Black Metal was all I would listen too. I didn't remember it particularly well and it hasn't suited my mood of late but I can appreciate the bleak workings of this lengthy record. At one hour its a pale, grim and gloomy affair that drones on with a calming, slightly dreading persuasion, as if being sucked into the grasp of ill fate. With short Dungeon Synth like intro and outros their is little respite from the dreary atmosphere, bar one interlude track and moments where the synth escapes the grisly guitar.

Its dimension is narrow and insular, fuzzy brittle guitars hiss away into the wall of sound engulfed by the deep and encompassing synths that conjure the shadowy atmosphere. The drums peter away smothered by the instrumentation, the vocals cut through the setting like a knife, Christoph's approach is much to my dissatisfaction. Dense, sharp screams are muzzled in distortion from peaking the microphone, they sound loud but are lowered greatly in the mix however their harsh abrasive nature and lack of any reverb has them sticking out like a sore thumb and dispelling the mood for me.

The songs are led through their moments by the synths, with the guitars descending into a drone much of what they do is compliment the synths through tone rather than composition. As a result these songs are very singular, linear, they follow the chord or note the synth lead. Occasionally a second line drops in or distant bells but its mostly constructed from one instance. The tone and pallet of the synths are ancient, nostalgic and mysterious, ripe for inspiring your imagination of what dark secrets lurk beyond its keep.

My enjoyment of this record was mixed, couldn't stand the vocals and the compositions were rather mediocre, the aesthetic wasn't especially fantastic either although it did feel unique and inspired. It isn't until the "Winternacht" tracks that my ears perked up and a couple of eerie melodies creep through on the organ like keys. I've not much else today, this one simply didn't click with me.

Rating: 4/10

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Crass "The Feeding Of The 5000" (1978)

Here's another record that the miracle of shuffle brought me back to. Reading and exploring the world of Punk music many years back Crass stood out as one of the most interesting bands, pioneers of the Anarcho Punk sound, Crass were artists who met their words with actual activism and action, true anarchists who expressed their anti establishment and authoritarian views through their DIY music. Feminists, animal rights activists and anti-war they stood for a lot of things I agree with while pointing out the hypocritical nature of punk ideology in the mainstream, calling out The Clash directly on one particular song. The bands story is fascinating, their influence on political culture and activism during their short tenure is unique and quite unheard of in the world of music today... or at any time really.

Punk can be unapologetically raw and crass, pun intended, but not quite like Crass are, with spoken word and dissonant guitar distortions, scratchy and dingy in tone, the band border on Art Punk with a continual exploration of feedback noise through their songs where you might of expected simple power chord riffs. When they do resemble more traditional styles they are buried, distant, quiet and second fiddle to the chemistry between bass guitar and drums. The core "melody" comes from the bouncy bass guitar, lining the direction of each track with a chromatic charm. The drums sound narrow but rattle away with a militant industrial vibe, keeping rhythm with snare rolls and marching rhythms between kick and snare. The symbols are quiet and often hit at the same time as a drum, rarely heard in the moments between.

They create quite the gloomy, nihilistic atmosphere, taking on the weight of the urgency they feel for their world views. Vocalist Steve Ignorant as the lead voice has quite the stark and blunt approach to his performance, almost spoken word, or shouted word as his thick London accent dominates the listeners attention. Its again unapologetic and straight to the point, a brilliant union of art and intention, you can feel the passion and fire for their beleifs. The album is also littered with creativity in the form of sampling, artsy spoken word interludes from Eve Libertine and interesting song ideas. The anti nuclear "They've Got A Bomb" sets a grim tone with crackling guitar noise and as Steve says "twenty odd years now waiting for a flash" it goes silent, as if the bomb has gone of. Fantastic. After its opening track the music starts and ends with two renditions of "Do They Owe Us A living", solidifying one of its main themes.

At thirty two minutes its fast, direct and loaded with short tracks, eighteen in total but they play like a singular experience in moments, often rolling from one into the next, sometimes with the shifts in tempo being transitioned through the drums which steadily increase or decrease in speed. The records DIY production doesn't hold it back, its a low fidelity affair and the reality and genuine nature of its construction makes complete sense given the circumstances, its part of its charm. I love this record for its character, conviction and substance, the music is grounded in reality. The people, ideas are real and meaningful, a much more intelligent form of Punk with a strong, harsh, unforgiving aesthetic.

Favorite Tracks: Do They Owe Us A Living, They've Got A Bomb, Punk Is Dead, Banned From The Roxy, Fight Wars Not War, Securior, You Pay, What A Shame
Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Atheist "Unquestionable Presence" (1991)

Revisiting records of old, Florida Death Metal outfit Atheist's sophomore record "Unquestionable Presence", a subtle oxymoron, is a gem of a record I seemed to notice of in my youth. Exploring the Death Metal scene many years ago they were another band I liked in a wash of many. It didn't stand out at the time but hearing "Enthralled In Essence" again after many years had me blowing the dust off and tuning in for another spin. With such a more experienced ear for Metal and extreme music it became quickly apparent that in 1991 Atheist were ahead of the pack. Introducing Progressive elements in a more diversified sound, they could well be the first labeled as "Technical Death Metal", marking their music with complexity, intricate workings and musical theory.

The record opens up with a vivacious bass guitar at the forefront, dancing away individually between the shuffling drums and the tenacious guitars. Something that would become a staple of Technical Death Metal. It rumbles in the unforgiving, building a weighted atmosphere spliced with temperate grooves and two minutes in a vigorous solo bursts light into the atmosphere before it shuffles its way back into its heavier tone with uncommon time signatures looping under a 4/4. To juxtapose the dense sound some soft, sombre clean guitars and the sounds of birds chirping set the calm before they deliver a mighty, stomping thrash groove. The chirping leads through to the next track and its a thoughtful arrangement of riffs and assembly of ideas that culminate into another great track.

Other bands at the time were largely pushing the boundaries of Death Metals aesthetic, intensifying its tone and extremifying its ideology. Atheist set their sights on an expansive sound that could transcend the genres traits while retaining its brutal aesthetic. It did so with a streak of Thrash Metal that you can still hear a fusion of today with bands like Revocation. They don't bludgeon but take that weight to groove and the infectious bursts of adventurous guitar solos really root themselves in scene that was giving way to new sounds at that time. "An Incarnations Dream" starts of with a sombre, moody and atmospheric acoustic that builds up a suspense in its opposition to samples of riots and police sirens. The lead guitar really transforms and elevates the instrumental before its cut away and we are lured into the records reality again. It drops into a fantastic spacious grove reminiscent of Pantera and another riff sounding like Metallica on "Kill Em All" plays briefly between an onslaught pounding riffage.

The band have an arsenal of ideas and bring them together in a chop, change and evolve approach. Every song is turning over at every moment, never resting on their laurels which adds up to rather short songs that get through their ideas in a sprint. They could easily be drawn out into epics like many progressive songs do but this band get straight to the point and condense everything. Its just the aforementioned "An Incarnations Dream" that I would of loved to hear more of the illuminating intro but alas it goes against the core principle of continual evolution and across the short thirty two minutes this record runs for it makes for an ever exciting listen that never lulls.

With "binge listening" my ears are well attune to what is an old, 90s recording. Even so I think this album sounds gorgeous with what they were working with. The guitars have texture in their heavy, lower reaches and stretch into the highs with a sharp illuminated tone. The bass guitar is everything you could ask for, upfront in the mix with a thick bold tone. It gets plenty of time to shine through the songs, rarely mirroring the guitars directly. The drums are fantastic too, sounds like your in a room with the kit, lots of natural reverb on the toms and a crisp snare. The kicks have both a notable clicking and deep thud, not great for blasting but the drumming hear is spirited, lively and going all over the kit, it compliments it well. My only "negative" point are the vocals, not bad but not particularly impressive, vocalist Kelly Sheafer has a screechy style, very Thrash with a lot of strain and force in his voice, it doesn't carry a lot of weight but its presence doesn't lesser the music. Terrific rediscovery, I'm compelled to go through their other records now.

Favorite Tracks: Mother Man, Enthralled In Essence, An Incarnations Dream
Rating: 9/10

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Pilotredsun "Achievement" (2016)

The mysterious Pilotredsun, or pilot red sun, is an anonymous American musician who's aesthetic for cheaply drawn cartoons with twisted, disturbing undertones is united with quirky electronic music. In my mind the two don't pair up, I see the charming side of the tunes, which maybe due to drawing comparisons with the more conventional Izioq. This collection of songs have a whiff of Chiptune, a touch of VGM but reside as melodies played on synthesizers with tones to compliment its vision which is down to interpretation. It may come across as mysterious, creepy and eccentric but for me I feel the warmth that exudes from the music passes the slightly quirky choices in vst's as a sort of childlike innocence. Its nostalgic, I see images of running across train tracks chasing a balloon, trying to jam a fork into the strange hole in the wall, or attempting to unscrew the lid of a strange bottle of blue liquid from under the sink. For me that quirky, eerie quality is danger, the sort young children aren't aware of as they explore their curiosity in a world of beautiful shapes and colors.

"Achievement" is fun, playful and flows with a free spirit. Simple melodies and there accommodating instruments create an ease for the listener to slide into. Nothing over complicates and there is just enough going on to enrich what is inherently simple, often two to three lines and light percussion. The drums are rather subdued but in "Warsaw" they burst to life with a bolder kit sounding more genuine than an 8-bit kit as some other tracks do. The genius comes from the selection of instruments to play these melodies. The slightly quirky, off kilt and "derpy" wave forms compliment the spirit of the music and add to that eccentric vibe which might come off as eerie or creepy, to me it is full of innocence.

The records production has a relatively simple job of balancing just a few, noninvasive instruments and so not much can be said other than it serves its purpose. The record has a great flow, nothing feels over played, or stretched out and between the twelve there is a comfortable balance of melodies and aesthetics. In the records run time a soothing atmosphere free of burden or worry is formed like a bubble drifting into the skies. Its engrossing and uplifting. Absolutely loving this record and Ive only gotten around to it a handful of times, just one of those you can connect with quickly.

Favorite Tracks: Warsaw, Sadpad, 8-Train, Funny Animals
Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Revocation "Great Is Our Sin" (2016)

They were once my shining beacon of hope for Metal music and as my taste expanded their impact on me faded. Disappointed by "Deathless" I wasn't going to get to excited over the Boston based outfits sixth full length record but from the first listen I knew this was something to get my teeth into. With the departure original drummer Dubois-Coyne the band were set to loose a key component of their sound, however replacement Ash Pearson from Canadian Metal band 3 Inches Of Blood does his service, providing the band with a technical backbone, armed to the teeth with tight rattling drums that bludgeon away between shuffles, rolls and blast beats. He does have a tenancy to dive into lengthy pedal rolls but the general intensity is spot on, if not toned down slightly from previous records, accommodating the guitars more so than firing aside them. With David showing no signs of losing inspiration "Great Is Our Sin" is ten tracks of dense, crafted Metal loosely themed around the woes of humanity repeating the failings of history.

With tinges of Black, Death and Thrash a thick and sprawling beast unravels from within the violence of aggressive music. With darkness, aggression and groove these songs take steadily progressing journeys through David's arsenal of lively riffs, never settling on a repetitive moment, as the band so traditionally do. On this record though the tint is darker and the moods of the songs jump around a little more with some of the more pummeling riffs against those with a less menacing demeanor. And then there's David's guitar solos bursting into life with purpose and intent, able to illuminate a song and as he so typically does, use a guitar solo to swiftly transform. The range of riffs are remarkable, never a dull moment and so distinctly Revocation it is a comforting listen to an old fan.

Moments like the instrumental "The Exaltation" are like flashbacks to the days I first discovered their "Empire Of The Obscene" debut. A song that bursts into classic Thrash between moody atmospheric riffs and a guitar solo reminiscent of Megadeth in their hay day. That excitement isn't as available on every track, some of which are more rooted in the dooming atmosphere of mankind's perils. Its in these slower, crushing moments that Revocations grip isn't as tight. As their sound progresses it has yet to stale but for me David's guitar work and style doesn't catch me out as often as it used to and with a more expansive interest the purist Metal intent is sometimes the less interesting choice to listen to.

"Great Is Our Sin" is a loaded gun of sharp guitar shredding, the trios chemistry sounding great on a sturdy production that I hear no faults in. Every moment is crisp, sharp and audible between each of the instruments. The bass is a little less adventurous than I remember with only a couple of memorable moments where it made an impact in the forefront of the song. David's vocals are biting, thick with anger and animosity, his range a little more defined and his scream packing more meat than I remember previously. He also flexes some cleaner vocals, deep bellows and sung lines fit perfectly into the albums theme. I think its a cracking album that's probably a fair few shades better than my enjoyment of it.

Favorite Tracks: Arbiters Of The Apocalypse, Crumbling Imperium, The Exaltation, Only The Spineless Survive, Cleaving Giants Of Ice
Rating: 7/10

Monday, 8 August 2016

Birocratic "Julien Solomita" (2016)

Back with another small release, American producer Biro is at it again crafting a few more beats in his particular flavor of easy going Jazz Hop. Lively sampled drum loops and soothing instrumentals come together for this short three track which has no surprises in store. The mid track continues the development of vocal eccentric sampling, chopping and pitch shifting a singers words into indecipherable snippets that make up warming melodies. The first and last songs are fairly straight forward beats with sampling of what sounds like a 40s singer, although I'm really unsure how to describe the source. The first tack "Burner" feels far more fleshed out with a gorgeous Spanish guitar lead shimmering as the focus of a beat with atmosphere and depth, the vocal sampling plays second fiddle in the background, coming of more like an instrument on a track that hits the mark.

The opening track has a bit of flair, otherwise its fairly mediocre. With his style established I'm hoping for a full length from Biro with flair and substance. For now its another micro record clocking in at six and a half minutes that doesn't satisfy the itch. The best track also seems a little unfinished with no break of progression and simply fading out before the two minute mark its all over a bit too quick.

Favorite Track: Burner
Rating: 2/10

Friday, 5 August 2016

Flying Lotus "You're Dead!" (2014)

American musician Steven Ellison, aka Flying Lotus is an acclaimed Experimental Hip Hop producer. This album, his fifth, is a primarily an instrumental and fleshed out collection of organic and exploratory beats. I caught wind of it back in 2014 when it was being heavily promoted via billboards and mainstream advertising, it received a lot of positive press but unfortunately I don't share in its praise, this album is great on paper but the listening experience is rather unfocused, lucid and wandering. Its a journey without a destination, unaware of itself. Perhaps that's its genius but as much as I enjoy wondering along through the experience it doesn't amount to anything emotional or memorable. Its just simply there one moment and the next its not.

Two records come to mind, DJ Shadow's "Endtroducing...", a record of care and craft that first explored Instrumental Hip Hop and The Future Sounds Of London's "Lifeforms", for its journey through sound that often steered clear of conventional song formats. "You're Dead!" starts of with a moment of structure and form with Jazz Hop beats and a feature from "Kendrick Lamar" but beyond that the album quickly strolls into psychedelic exploration as layered beats loosely guide the narrative provided by an eclectic array of samples often with something genuinely interesting at its focal point. The craft and attention to detail is ruthless. These beats don't loop, break or rarely create that sense of perpetual motion. They expand, contract and often organically flow through an ever changing landscape of sound. Its mellow, chilled and easily enjoyed but what it amounts to alludes me.

I feel no sense of brooding emotion or vision and without that it is an underwhelming listen. Everything worthy of notice is fleeting, momentary and directionless. Aesthetically gorgeous, musically empty, I couldn't find something to hold onto. I felt it could of done with more structure but as a listener If i can't hear the vision it doesn't really matter. I will certainly give Lotus some more of my time, maybe one of his other records will suit me more than this one.

Favorite Tracks: Never Catch Me, Decent Into Madness
Rating: 5/10

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Schoolboy Q "Blank Face LP" (2016)

The "Black Face LP" is American rapper Schoolboy Q's forth full length and an ambitious one. Dark, mean and uncompromising Q brings a large group of producers together for a seventy two minute ride. Despite many banging beats, sharp production and musical creativity the albums stretch strolls through some weak points in the start and end. Between the psychedelic, laid back "Kno Ya Wrong" and the catchy, ghetto whistles of "Neva Change" a string of eight songs illuminate with strong verses, brilliant hooks and fleshed out production. Either side of these tracks things aren't as focused. The opening "TorcH" starts with a myriad of Q's voices over a warm bass guitar, with "Blank Face" the theme is returned to as if signaling the end of a lengthy listen. It winds down, fades out and is then followed by two more mediocre songs. Its nitpicking but as a whole these songs don't flow of one another well, the whole things feels a little disorganized.

The album gets rolling with two introductory tracks, slowly unfolding before Kanye West hops onto the albums first defining song "That Part". The mood is slow, dreary and gloomy. The hook plays over and over between broken down verses, Q stating his successes and the Independence of his "bitches". Then Kanye drops in with an unusual lively, contagious flow making timely use of his pitch and a squeaky "ugh" to add rhythmic gratification to his bizarre and unfocused verses. Its a big guest to have on and the song... Its memorable but maybe for just being different more so than banging. Another dark street song comes through "Groovy Tony" and another big name, Jadakiss, on the track. The song has a great break in the middle with violent vocal stabs and heightened drums, they transition into a powerful vocal moment before Q brings the track back.

And then a string of my favorite songs occur,  "Kno Ya Wrong" shifts through three organic, jazzy, psychedelic phases with a joyful sampling of Kool & The Gang's "Summer Madness". The constant tone shifting happens again as we dive into a ruthless gangster track with violent lyricism, dark groovy layered beats, machine hi hats and the sound of guns firing between the banging hook. Halfway through his verse Q hands the mic to Vince Staples who drops heavy verse that gets better with each line. Unsurprisingly we sway to a poppy, "accessible" tune with light trance synths and a sing along "dollar dollar be-als" hook, lots of great singing on this track.

"Dope Dealer" gets dark, really dark as Q paints an ugly picture of the gritty life doing the illegal to survive. The drums really bring the spacious, paranoid instrumental to life and its another killer hook. "John Muir" might be my favorite, something about this flow and beat reminds me of the 90s. "Big Body" jumps in as the albums romp track with the tightest beat, thudding bass pedals, slick claps and a melodic bell instead of hi-hats. Its crowned by a timely roll of hard and swift sub kicks. Tha Dogg Pound, friends of Snoop Dogg, also make a great feature. "Neva Change" gets a little pop once again with a friendly instrumental and brilliant vocals in the chorus, topped of by a G-Funk ghetto whistle its another subtle banger. And that's where the magic ends for me. the album strolls out with what feels like a pre-outro, "Black Thoughts" are spoken thoughts over an experimental instrumental reminiscent of DJ Shadow.

Production wise its fleshed out with many ideas. A lot of songs come with breaks, big variations and an organic sense of instrumentation. The records flow though is all over the place with a handful of distinctively different styles not meshing together well. The features were brilliant and Q was on the mark with his fiery flow, his words had bite and wasn't short of creativity when writing hooks. Its interesting because even the weaker tracks had something to offer, but in the grand scheme of things it just doesn't play well between some tracks. Very ambitious but unfocused, more like a compilation than album.

Favorite Tracks: Whateva U Want, Dope Dealer, John Muir, Big Body, Neva Change
Rating: 6/10

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Batushka "Litourgiya" (2015)

First time around I didn't hear anything special in this record but given a prod in the side I decided to give it another try and after a couple of spins the magic became obvious. "Litourgiya" is the debut release of Polish Black Metal band Batushka, meaning "father" to a priest. They remain shrouded in mystery, choosing to not reveal their identities. Supposedly their a collective of eight musicians from other established bands and when playing live they take on a similar look to Ghost, cloaked in dark and mystic robes full of demonic symbols and signs. I can't help but feel its not just their image that's taken a big dose of inspiration from Ghost, the music too has thought and craft about it, the focus on clean apostolic vocals giving it a similar spirit of biblical damnation.

Aesthetically its not much of a stretch from traditional Black Metal. Its noisy, overwhelming but not low in fidelity. The guitars have a gorgeous tone range fit for shrill tremolo shredding and weighty down tuned low notes sounding almost Djent but without the technique. Around them a clunky bass strums away, its low end blending into the guitars and its high texture waddling its way into the creaks of space between other instruments. The drums batter wildly with timely blasts, a warm rounded snare, softened pedals and muted cymbals come together loosely with a rawness that musters up enough chemistry for an engrossing wall of unrelenting candlelight darkness.

Batushka distinguish themselves with an orthodox theme lining the songs with Gregorian chants, the pummeling, crushing music sets the tone of fearful Christian mysticism. One can envision clergy working over sacred scriptures locked within catacombs and church cellars. The shrill screams and throaty shouts aren't as prominent, taking a backseat to deep, bellowing ritualistic chants that don't set the tone alone. The accompanying music has a lot of mood and tempo shifts, most of the songs slow down the pace for temperate melodies before erupting with gleaming uproars of energy. The chants and "clean" vocals are quiet in the mix and occasionally slip deep into the background, just harmonizing with the guitars inconspicuously.

As an album it plays as a whole, the songs are rather similar to one another and tend to variate on the same ideas in different ways. There are moments of both ambience and intensity that come in many shades of dogmatic darkness and once you've caught the essence of the theme its effortless to enjoy. The sound and character is nailed but it isn't very expansive, so the stage is set for the band to do interesting things with their craft in the future. A very solid release worthy of listening to any Black Metal fan with a taste for twist on traditionalism.

Favorite Track: Yekteniya 2, Yekteniya 8
Rating: 8/10